Where’s the best place to get your taxes done?
That is the question.
Well let me give you something to think about when deciding. It all started when I moved from my home state of WV to the good ole state of Maryland. I had just received my degree in Accounting and IT and was ready to look for a new career. I had already been working for the last ten years as a librarian where I so envied the VITA volunteers who came every year to provide free tax services to the community and I so wanted to one day be involved with that. If you don’t know what VITA is, well it stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance which is a program regulated by the IRS to provide free tax assistance to taxpayers. Anyways, before moving from WV I applied for a job at a CPA firm and after a week I got a call about the position stating that it had already been filled, boy did I start to worry that I would never find a job opportunity like that again being how we lived in a small town. I was really hoping to land something before I actually moved to Maryland. If you’re wondering why I was moving well it’s because my fiancé had been offered a job there so I decided I was going to move myself and my three boys there to start a new life. Sounds exciting doesn’t it. Well it was!
So there I was getting ready to take that last drive to Maryland where I thought I’d have a job but, NOTHING. So about a month later I received a call from the CPA firm that I had applied for and lo and behold I got the job. So there I was working for a CPA firm learning so much. I quickly learned that what you are taught in college does not prepare you for what you will actually be doing. I mean I was doing payroll, bookkeeping, financial statements for home building contractors, doctors, apartment buildings, you name it I did it. All this prepared me for the task of preparing taxes for corporations, partnerships and individuals. I was calculating depreciation and loan interest as well. So I thought maybe I should expand my skills and go to an H&R Block class and maybe prepare taxes there. I mean they are well-known so they must be good at what they do. I told my boss what I was doing and he kind of giggled under his breath. I went back into my office wondering why he giggled as if I was joking about taking the tax class at H&R Block and maybe working there for some more experience.
Ok, well here is where I discovered why he giggled. As I walk into the class I found a table way in the back and took a seat. Looking around at the few people who were already sitting at the other tables I wondered what their stories were. Then in walks the instructor (or should I say a “wanna” be comedian) and class is about to begin until a few more people start rushing in. Ok, finally he’s ready to explain the program and go over everything. I was so excited until it was that time for everyone to introduce themselves. Here we go, the start of the introductions and it seems everyone in the room was interested in the same thing, a part-time job to make a little extra money. Let me just tell you after the whole “getting to know you” thing I found out that out of the 15 people in the class I was the only person with a degree and/or any type of background in accounting, taxes or business. There were housekeepers, store clerks, restaurant cooks, cashiers … you get where I’m going. So now I’m wondering how does an H&R Block tax preparer get qualified. Well come to find out after taking the 6 week basic tax course all you need to do is take a test and pass with a 80%. The instructor told us that the tax software that is used is fools proof – meaning that any idiot should be able to put numbers into the program and unless an error comes up, you are good. They are not required to ask for any additional info from the client or anything. So I’m thinking this is easy money to be earned. This brings me to my next “Say What” moment. How much do we get paid? At that time it was $7.25. Yes folks, $7.25 – hold up. They charge clients outrageous prices to get a simple tax return prepared and the preparer gets $7.25/hr. It’s called overhead ya’ll. I forgot to tell you earlier that you also pay for your tax training class as well.
No more was I wondering why my boss giggled when I told him my plans on furthering my learning. As I walked into work after completing my course at H&R Block he asked me how it was going and I told him that it wasn’t for me and I don’t think I will be going back and then I giggled.
So fast forward to where I am today an Enrolled Agent and a business owner a CE course author and of course I finally got to volunteer for VITA as an Advanced Certified preparer. I can say that when I hear people say that they are going to one of those tax franchises to have their taxes prepared I kind of cringe. Not because of the experience I had but because they aren’t educated enough to know what to look for in a preparer. It’s not necessarily the place you’re going to get your taxes done but who is preparing your taxes. Don’t get me wrong there are some good tax preparers working in these offices – as I could have been one, but you also have some that just do the basic data entry. My advice to you is to ask your preparer questions about your return or make sure they know your situation so that you can get the best tax service for your money and see if they will be around after the current season to prepare you for the next tax season in case you have any questions.
To help you with some of the questions or concerns just follow my blog and social media sites. The info posted to these sites will guide you when it comes to making sure you’re getting your taxes prepared correctly. Remember these are big corporations just wanting to get your money so it’s your job to make sure you’re not getting taken advantage of. In the end you are responsible for your tax return no matter who prepares it.
I hope sharing this story with you gave you a little insight on deciding what to do when choosing the right place to get your taxes prepared. What are some of your experiences and what are your concerns, please leave a comment and share.
Have a wonderful day!
Debbie Thomas, EA